This is the first of three volumes in which a huge number of personal recollections have been carefully sifted and appropriate extracts selected, and then merged into a continuous narrative. The result is a masterpiece. "The March", the opening volume, describes a military machine and supporting administration unprecedented in human history, but just past the peak of its power, embarking on a vast undertaking that has been wholly underestimated in logistics, strategic and political terms. The most surprising revelation, for this reader at least, was the extent to which the disaster commenced almost from the moment that Napoleon's vast multi-national force crossed the Niemen into Russian Territory. Supply breakdowns and outright hunger were significant factors from the outset and the Grand Armee's route eastwards in summer heat was littered with the pathetic corpses of troops from a dozen countries who found suicide preferable to the continued misery of the march. The capture of Smolenko caused heavy losses, but these were minor compared with the hecatomb of Borodino, a horrific slugging match at which Napoleonic tactical genius was most notable by its absence. The first volume ends with the French entry into an eerily deserted Moscow. Readers who enjoy this volume - a feast for all Napoleonic and "War and Peace" enthusiasts - will want to go on immediately to the two subsequent volumes dealing with the occupation of Moscow and with the Retreat itself.
I currently have one copy each of the entire set. Buy all three and get a discount of $20.
1812: The March on Moscow
1993 Greenhill London